BC Supreme Court Confirms Procedure to Initiate Proceeding to Set Aside Separation Agreements Engaging Both Property Disputes and Spousal Support
By: Alfonso Chen (Articled Student)
When relationships come to an end, and when the involved parties nonetheless decide to cooperate with one another to avoid heading to court to resolve their disputes, the parties can often agree on important terms in a written agreement called a “separation agreement”. Within this agreement, the parties can resolve the issues on child and spousal support payments and the division of family property and debts.
The Supreme Court of British Columbia (“BCSC”) recently issued a judgment confirming the proper procedure in initiating a case where one seeks to set aside a separation agreement. Accepting the in-court arguments of Henderson & Lee lawyer, Ms. Joyce Ling, the BCSC has confirmed that the proceeding for a case where one seeks to set aside a separation agreement, involving both property disputes and spousal support, can be commenced by filing a requisition and attaching a Separation Agreement pursuant to Rule 2-1 of the Supreme Court Family Rules, B.C. Reg. 169/2009 [ “Family Rules” ]; and thereafter filing a Notice of Application under Rules 10-5(1) and 10-5(2), instead of a notice of family claim. While not constituting legal advice, this article guides the reader with a simple discussion of the decision of Li v Zhu, 2018 BCSC 2182 (“Li”).
The respondent argued “that the primary issues between the parties are almost exclusively related to property and s. 93 of the [Family Law Act]… [and] that the claimant should not be permitted to “shoehorn” this family case into Rule 2-1 just because spousal support is also raised”: Li, at para 31. Though the court found that the respondent’s submissions were persuasive, the court ultimately dismissed the respondent’s objection to the form of proceeding. Notably, the court considered the earlier judgments of Halliday v Halliday, 2015 BCCA 82, and Kler v Kang, 2018 BCSC 1136, and stated that “there were property issues identified in both proceedings. I am unable to ignore the weight of the authority that binds this court”: Li, at para 39.
In addition, in response to the respondent’s submission that she would be “prejudiced by this manner of proceeding because there is no obligatory [judicial case conference], the respondent cannot demand particulars, the claimant need not provide a list of documents, and the claimant need not respond to notices to admit”: Li, at para 40, the court pointed out several court procedures available to the respondent. The court, agreeing with Ms. Ling, stated “that this manner of proceeding is consistent with the object of the Family Rules, as emphasized in Halliday: to assist the parties to resolve their legal issues in a family law case fairly and in a way that will secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every family law case on its merits”: Li, at para 41.
The decision in Li clarifies the procedure to initiate proceedings to set aside separation agreements. While proceedings to set aside separation agreements are unfortunately almost bound to continue to arise in the future, having a greater clarity in what the procedure is to initiate such proceedings may shorten the process for those proceedings to meet the objects of the Family Rules.
The legal process may be daunting to many. Should you feel the need to find legal representation or advice on family law matters or other legal matters, Ms. Joyce Ling is always looking forward to helping others navigate through the legal process.
调查取证令 – 《高院家庭法规》允许一方当事人代理律师向隐瞒财务信息的一方当事人发出通知，要求对方参加进一步调查取证程序，包括“承认相关事实”，“询问调查会议”，“讯问”等。 如果被要求调查或讯问的当事人配合，经代理律师申请，法院有权命令该当事人参加上述调查取证程序。如果当事人违反法院命令不参加调查取证，法院有权直接做出对该当事人不利的判决。
禁止令 – 当一方当事人能提供被隐瞒财产的信息时，法院有权发布禁止令，禁止隐瞒财产的一方和相关的金融机构转移，变卖，交换，转让家庭财产。 违反禁止令的当事人将面临法院更严重的处罚，可能会面临监禁。 同时，法院有权直接做出对该当事人不利的判决。
全球禁止令 – 2017年BC省法院在Devathasan对Devathasan一案中，命令隐瞒财产的一方开庭审理结束之前，不得处理全球范围内的所有财产，包括加拿大，美国和亚洲的财产。同样，如果在发布命令后，法院认为有证据证明该当事人违反禁止令，法院将对违反命令人采取更严重处罚，甚至有权直接做出对该当事人不利的判决。
估算收入 – 案件当事人拒绝提供收入信息的，法院可能按照家庭开支的以往记录或隐瞒收入一方的以往收入记录推算该当事人的收入，并命令该当事人依照被估算的收入支付子女抚养费或配偶赡养费。
相反推论 – 省法院在2008年Laxton对Coglon一案和2014年Rana对Rana一案中确定，法院有权依赖隐瞒财产一方隐瞒的财产和收入的情况，在开庭审理后做出对隐瞒财产一方相反的结论。这样的结论可能会导致隐瞒财产一方失去分割在加拿大已经披露的财产的机会。